I know that Halloween is still more than a month away, but it won’t be long before people will once again be looking for ways to scare the pants off unwitting friends and family members.
One way to do that without having to dress up like a ghost or goblin is by sharing this little piece of news: In June 2020, the US National Debt surpassed the $26 trillion mark. And if that’s not terrifying enough, check out the following witches’ brew of other chilling facts you probably didn’t know about the National Debt:
- Although the official US National Debt figure is $26 trillion, it would be $52 trillion higher if it included unfunded future obligations for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
- In late December 2011, America’s debt-to-GDP ratio — an indicator of fiscal health — ominously surpassed the 100% mark.
- It could be worse: US debt reached 130% of GDP immediately following World War II. Today, America has the dubious honor of having the world’s 11th worst debt-to-GDP ratio at 105%. Even so, Japan (253%) and Italy (123%) are worse; they rank first and fourth, respectively.
- The next time you’re playing trivial pursuit, you might want to remember that the two countries with the lowest debt-to-GDP ratios are Brunei (3.3%) and Afghanistan (4.1%). Yes, that Afghanistan.
- Aside from Japan, the last nation to have a debt-to-GDP ratio above 200% was Zimbabwe in 2010. Not coincidentally, an epic case of hyperinflation all but destroyed their economy shortly thereafter.
- It took the US government 191 years from 1791 until 1982 to run up its first trillion dollars in debt. It only took four years after that for Congress to add another trillion dollars to the total.
- Twenty-six-trillion dollars is a hair-raising amount of money. In fact, it’s equivalent to roughly $80,000 for every man, woman, and child currently living in the United States.
- As a point of reference, if 26-trillion $1 bills were stacked on top of each other, they would stretch all the way to the moon. And back. And then almost back to the moon again.
- If you brought one trillion crisp one-dollar bills to the bank and handed the teller a dollar every second, it would take 32,000 years to completely transfer the money. And you thought pennies were a pain.
- Don’t blame inflation: Between 1946 and 1982, and after taking inflation into account, the National Debt remained virtually unchanged. Since then — with the notable exceptions of 2000 and 2001 — the National Debt has crept upward at an exponential pace.
- Our founding fathers were no better at managing debt than we are now. In 1791, the National Debt was a mere $75 million. That may seem minuscule, but at the time it represented a debt-to-GDP ratio of 40%.
- Thanks to Andrew Jackson, the National Debt was completely paid off on January 1, 1835; and the surplus revenues that year were then distributed to the states. To this day it remains the only time in history a major country has been debt free.
- The idea of balancing government budgets is not a new one. In 55 BC, Cicero told his fellow citizens that, “The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, and assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt.” Nobody listened.
- The US government is currently borrowing at the rate of about $456 million every hour. That’s more than it paid to buy Alaska in 1867, after adjusting for inflation.
- He’s not that rich: This month Jeff Bezos’ became the first man to have a net worth of $200 billion. If he donated all of it to help slow down the increase in the US National Debt, his fortune would only cover 20 day’s worth of government expenses.
- China and Japan are the two biggest holders of American debt. Suckers.
- Yes, the US Treasury can always pay its creditors in gold. Unfortunately, the value of all the gold it currently holds at Fort Knox, as well as the Denver and West Point mints, is only $523 billion.
- I know what you’re thinking: Will China and Japan take a personal check? Nope — but the US government will. Just make it payable to the United States Treasury; in the memo section, note that it’s a “Gift to the debt held by the public” and mail your check to:
Gifts to the United States
US Department of the Treasury
Reporting and Analysis Branch 2
P.O. Box 1328
Parkersburg, WV 26106-1328
Then again, I suppose the mere thought of anyone even considering such a supernatural gesture seems downright, well … spooky.
Photo Credit: Cliff